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Border Incident is a 1949 film noir directed by Anthony Mann. The MGM film was written by John C. Higgins and George Zuckerman. The film was shot by cinematographer John Alton, who used shadows and lighting effects to involve an audience despite the fact that the film was shot on a low budget. The drama features Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, Howard Da Silva, among others.[2]

Border Incident
Border Incident.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Mann
Produced byNicholas Nayfack
Screenplay byJohn C. Higgins
Story byGeorge Zuckerman
StarringRicardo Montalban
George Murphy
Howard Da Silva
James Mitchell
Music byAndré Previn
CinematographyJohn Alton
Edited byConrad A. Nervig
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 28, 1949 (1949-10-28) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$908,000[1]


"Here is the All-American Canal. It runs through the desert for miles along the California-Mexico border... Farming in Imperial Valley... [requires] a vast army of farm workers... and this army of workers comes from our neighbor to the south, from Mexico. ... It is this problem of human suffering and injustice about which you should know. The following composite case is based upon factual information supplied by the Immigration and Naturalization Service..."

The story concerns two agents, one Mexican (PJF) and one American, who are tasked to stop the smuggling of Mexican migrant workers across the border to California. The two agents go undercover, one as a poor migrant.

Some of the film's most memorable scenes include the death of an American by a mechanized harrow and a climactic shootout in a quicksand swamp.



The film was among a number of lower budgeted movies produced at MGM under the regime of Dore Schary.[3]


According to MGM records the film earned $580,000 in the US and Canada and $328,000 overseas resulting in a loss of $194,000.[1]

Critical responseEdit

Roger Westcombe compared the film to classic Westerns: "Yet far from a typical Western's sense of freedom, Border Incident shares with [director Mann's previous film noir] T-Men that film's inky, submerged visual quality. These are 'wide' but not 'open' spaces, as Alton's beautifully registered grey-toned but grim visuals make the distant horizons as closed as the American border. The constant presence of vulnerable, innocent peasants adds a piquancy to Border Incident, raising the stakes from the destiny of a mere two police agents to that of an entire underclass."[4]



  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ^ Border Incident at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ Metro is Planning Low-Budget Films: 'Border Incident,' To Be Made Next Year, First of Series - Cost Set at $550,000 By Thomas F. Brady Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 21 Dec 1948: 33.
  4. ^ Westcombe, Roger Archived March 1, 2005, at the Wayback Machine. Big House Film, review. Last accessed: December 25, 2007.


  • Harry Tomicek: Das grosse Schwarz. Border Incident, von Anthony Mann, Kamera: John Alton (1949). In: Christian Cargnelli, Michael Omasta .(eds.): Schatten. Exil. Europäische Emigranten im Film noir. PVS, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-901196-26-9.

External linksEdit